Sanskrit & Law

April 13, 2021

Sanskrit is considered as one of the oldest languages known to mankind contributing its essence to various topics of day-to-day life. There is a saying which goes “It is correct to ask what is not there in Sanskrit rather than what is there.” Hence, Sanskrit has its equal share in the field of law.

The present system of law is a combination of Vedic period and English law culture. Most of the books related to law were written in Sanskrit. But, due to the lack of exposure and interest of the present generations, these books are slowly losing their value. Although law is a combination of texts derived from different cultures and languages, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Sanskrit plays a vital role in moulding of the law.

The Hindu law is completely based on writings of Sanskrit scholars, where the main sources are Smriti, Shruti, Veda, Commentaries, Dharmashastra, Dharmasutra and many more. As for this reason, many international law universities have added Sanskrit as a part of study to help students understand the basics.

The four Vedas: Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, Atharvaveda;

Six Vedanta: Shiksha, Vyakarana, Kalpa, Nirukta, Chandus, Jyothisha;

Upanishat like Isha, Kena, Kata, Mundaka, Mandukya, Itterya and Titeraya all explain about law. Upanishad are considered as concluding part of Veda. There are many Upanishads. The four Purusharta: Dharma, Arta, Kama and Moksha are also included in Sanskrit.

The Shruthi derived from Sanskrit word ‘Shru’ which means “To Hear.” The Smriti is derived from Sanskrit word ‘Smru’ which means “To Remember.”

Many books which are related to law like Manusmriti & Naradasmriti are all written in Sanskrit. But these smritis give more eminence to a male than female. Hence, currently we utilise them with certain amendments.

The term ‘Danda’ meaning ‘Punishment’, derived from Sanskrit is used in Indian Criminal Code. The Garuda Purana mentions many types of punishments which are included in the present IPC Section 53. The work Kantakashodanam deals with criminal investigation and legal punishment of offenders. Even Kautilya’s Arthashastra deals with some concepts of law.

The Law of Contract and Law of Torts includes Sanskrit. The story of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Panchatantra all speak some examples of contract. But the present Indian Contract Act has taken after English as well as from Indian concepts. Even the Environmental Law, Criminology included in Sanskrit. Thus, Sanskrit is one of the prominent languages just like Greek in law.

Even the concepts like Dharma, Adoption, Succession, Karta are included in Sanskrit. In Sanskrit Karta means ‘Head of Family’ or ‘Who leads and created the family.’ Dharma was derived from Sanskrit word ‘Dhru’ meaning ‘A way of life.’ It also emphasises on Dharanath Dharmaha which means ‘Adopting or following one way of life.’

Most of the ancient sources of Hindu Law are written in Sanskrit and it is well known that in the present time there is a dearth of Sanskrit scholars. Hardly any importance is given to these Sanskrit texts after the arrival of modern law-making systems.

Before British arrived in India there were many laws that governed the people related to Sanskrit. It is now considered that the ancient laws were much harsh and to implement and practice them at the present scenarios would be an unjust act. In spite of this many Sanskrit works are still considered as basic foundation of law.

Currently many German-American universities teach Sanskrit. But it is a tragedy that Sanskrit is being ignored and abandoned in the country where it was born. Hence, it is our duty to acknowledge its importance and study the basis of law making.




By Pavithra
Pavithra is a singer, orator, writer and reader. She loves travelling. She is a student of SDM Law College, Mangaluru. Pavithra is also doing a Diploma course in Vedanta from Tirupathi University.
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Comment on this article

  • Skanda kiran, Mangalore

    Fri, Apr 16 2021

    Great writing... Loved it..short and crisp

  • Sushma, Moodbidri

    Wed, Apr 14 2021

    Good article and it is easy to understand.

  • Shreesha R Bhat, Mumbai

    Wed, Apr 14 2021

    Good one Pavithra and keep up the good work!

  • Mangalurian, Mangaluru

    Wed, Apr 14 2021

    A very interesting article Ms Pavithra. Thank you. Your mention that Sanskrit is a very ancient language confuses me. I have heard from some scholars that no evidence has been found of any Sanskrit before the arrival of Brahmins at a particular location. Considering that the Havyaka/Shivalli Brahmins arrived in the coastal regions only in the 10th century, what law was followed in the region? I believe Brahmins moved to Kerala even later. Surely there was some legal framework present before this period? Any sources on the matter would be much appreciated.

  • Varun bhat, Mysore

    Wed, Apr 14 2021

    Wonderful and powerful article. Future is here.

  • Kripa rai, Puttur

    Tue, Apr 13 2021

    Good one... And carry on writing such useful stuff !

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